Thursday, January 27, 2011

Living and Existing Somewhere In Between

After five days of continuous Chemo, I was finally released from Prentice Hospital. At 7:00 p.m the night before, I packed my bags, tidied up my room, and stared deeply into the big bad city. I wondered how would I feel when released? Would my senses be on overload? Would everything smell, taste and feel different? How would my in-patient stay affect my daily perspective? Was I ready for independence again? Was I ready both physically and emotionally to come home?  Could I handle life outside these four walls?

After being hooked up for five days, ones sense of independence is drastically compromised. My Chemo machine became an additional appendage, one that I didn't ask for- but had no choice but to deal with. Every hour I was watched, monitored, and observed.  When it came time to be discharged, I started to wonder if my body would be able to function on its own? Could I manage my symptoms and listen to my body's internal dialogue without  the help of others?

It wasn't until I arrived home, took a long shower, and got tucked into bed, that I realized I was experiencing post-traumatic stress. I was unsure of how to exist in this space between the hospital and home. I was not comfortable in either place and somehow was forced to exist in this land of in between.  

The level of terror I felt at home was paralyzing. I sat in the kitchen with my dad, and stared out into space. I couldn't stop weeping.  I was terrified that my body would respond violently to the effects of Chemo and that I wouldn't be able to receive the necessary care to deal with it. I was unsure of what to expect, and I was scared of my body's potential limitations.

I went to bed last night at 9 and fell into a deep sleep. I woke up throughout the night and extended my hand across the bed- still convinced that I was somehow attached to a machine. I then would take a deep breath, picture myself wrapped in a cocoon of blankets, and fall back asleep. This morning when I finally woke up to face the day, I had tears streaming down my face. The fear of dying in my sleep was so palatable, so real, so terrifying, I couldn't speak.

Last night and this morning I felt as if I  was staring at my own mortality. I let myself be overcome by fear and I was ashamed at the ease in which it happened.

On the 16th floor, while I was fighting for my life, I watched patients say goodbye and try to make peace with death. There is no doubt that watching this process affected me to the core. I still am trying to get the blank and hopeless stares from the bed ridden patients out of my head.

In the days to come, as I recuperate, and make peace with my new existence, I hope to let go of what I saw and heard, and face the day stronger.  I realize that I can't be wonder woman every day, and I am allowed to have moments of doubt, weakness and fear. I just hope that I will learn to better manage these moments, prevent them from overwhelming me, and refocus quickly so I can get back to Killing this Cancer in the Butt!


  1. Love you. You're not alone. It's good and totally natural to let the scary feelings wash through you, like a storm. Miss you and wish I could be there with an umbrella.

  2. Jenna, totally normal what you're feeling. You can't be a rah-rah cheerleader all the time. It's okay to feel sad as long as eventually you drag yourself out of the teary abyss and realize you're a fighter and you're going to be just fine.

  3. While I wasn't fighting a life or death illness, I spent my 20s in and out of hospitals having surgeries for debilitating chronic pain which, if the surgeries and PT and meds didn't do their job, would have resulted in my inability to open my jaw more than a centimeter and inability to lift anything. (So much for having children one day...)

    I'm better now. A lot better. But my advice for the dark moments? Develop a relationship with an epic television show. Create a relationship that feels so real within the walls of their reality that you can remove yourself from your own body, so that when you're 100% sure your body is failing you, you have a place to go within a fantasy, where your eyes, ears, mind, and imagination are essential to the experience, but your body is completely extraneous.

    That sort of escape pod kept me mentally strong. I couldn't always live within the reality of a body that failed me.